When artists leave school, many will rush to the large cities of New York and Los Angeles. A few will rise to traditionally thought of success. Others will reinvent. These markets have too many players in them and there are not enough traditional opportunities. Inspiration and opportunity can be found, but you will be competing for resources with tens of thousands of others. It is as though you get an office call and when you show up at the door, you are followed by hundreds.
Many find this competition state thrilling. Many others end up waiting tables in restaurants for years.
My goal, as a teacher, is to help artists rise above the stereotype of the starving artist.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give any artist is to create a niche.
Create your little spot on the map, your piece of the pie.
When you are competing so much with such fierce competition and little in way of sustainable opportunities, it is perhaps wise to rethink an approach into the industry.
The larger markets are the typical paths. But there are many ways into the industry and sometimes the more interesting entrances stand out.
When you embody a niche in the market, you have fewer competitors. Therefore you also have more opportunities. Opportunities have a way of snowballing. Work begets work. The more you work, the more you work.
Developing your artistic pursuits in a niche market, because of this lack of extremem numbers of competitors, one has opportunity to work more and consequently, develop more deeply. One has opportunity to focus on how they, as creators, choose to be portrayed in the eyes of society. They have opportunity to choose their role.
To create a niche, look at your community cultural offerings. Who are the players and what are they doing?
Research how each manages to survive, economically. Are they funded by donors or are they for profit?
Now look at another community. Choose a vibrant one. Now ask yourself what this community has in way of cultural offerings. Are there things being done here that you are interested in building in your community? If yes, do so, provided there is an audience.
If no, then do something else.
I like to inspire artists to discover their unique artistic voice. There is no tool more powerful than this. When an artist has found their voice, half of the work is done.
The other half envolves engaging the final collaborators, our audience.
Jim Hart is the Director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Meadows School of the Arts at SMU www.smu.edu. Hart founded The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN). He is an entrepreneur and artist.